What Is a Monroney Sticker?

The window sticker affixed to every new car is a great win for consumer protection.

BMW i4 Manuel Carrillo III Manuel Carrillo III/Capital One

The internet makes it easier than ever for consumers to find new-car reviews and shopping advice, but one of the most ubiquitous and important sources of information for any potential car buyer predates the World Wide Web by decades and is still printed on paper. We’re talking, of course, about the window sticker, also known as the Monroney sticker or label.

History of the Monroney sticker

Buying a new car may feel intimidating today, but imagine how it must have felt seven decades ago before window stickers existed. Back then, automakers shipped cars to dealers without providing any pricing information for the consumer to see. Want to know what features were included in the base price or what equipment was installed as an added-cost option? You’d have to take your salesperson’s word for it.

As a recipe for abuse, customers could do little more than pray that their dealers weren’t inventing markups or slapping on accessories to boost their bottom lines.

The solution to this problem came by way of a senator from Oklahoma. Almer Stillwell “Mike” Monroney pushed Congress to enact the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958, which called for each new car to bear a label in its window noting the vehicle’s make and model, its vehicle identification number (or VIN), its manufacturer’s suggested retail price, its destination charge, and any installed options along with their cost. This way, customers would have all the pricing info upfront.

Monroney left the Senate in 1968, but the label that bears his name is as relevant as ever in light of the chip shortage and the resulting new-car inventory squeeze. Some dealers are taking advantage of the situation by tacking on thousands of dollars in added dealer markup, or ADM, onto the prices of new vehicles that are in high demand. The Monroney sticker reveals which dealerships are padding their profits, and which are still selling cars at the prices that automakers deem fair.

Using the Monroney to your advantage

Even if you’re shopping online, you can often find a digital copy of a vehicle’s window sticker on a dealer’s inventory webpage, and they’re sometimes more informative than the dealer’s descriptions. Monroney labels have always been a great tool for quickly sizing up different vehicles, especially since, in recent years, the stickers have come to include Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel-economy estimates and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash-test ratings.

But most importantly, the itemized nature of the Monroney label can help ensure you’re not taken for a ride when buying your next car. Look closely:

  • Are there options listed that you can’t find on the actual vehicle?
  • Does it include dealer-install accessories or add-ons that you don’t want?
  • Next to the Monroney, has the dealer posted an addendum sticker noting a market adjustment?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, that should raise a red flag and perhaps encourage you to check out Monroney stickers at a different dealership.

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Evan McCausland
Car, truck, train, or bus—if a vehicle has wheels, chances are Evan McCausland is interested in it. More importantly, he’s interested in helping others learn more about cars and trucks, especially when it comes time to make a decision on their next vehicle purchase. For nearly two decades, he’s been fortunate to have the opportunity to do just that, writing for major automotive publications, automotive clubs, and automakers alike.